It’s my way or the highway. When we are being too stubborn.

A dogged determination not to change one's attitude or position on something is stubbornness. But if someone will NOT budge, no matter what, we might wonder what’s going on in their inner world.

Some of the best lessons in life come from traditional tales we hear in childhood and as Aesop’s fable of The Ass and his Driver so clearly illustrates, digging your heels in can have dire consequences. The moral of the story is that those who don’t listen to reason but wilfully go their own way, end up losing out. In the story, the donkey is being driven down a road which has a steep mountainside. The donkey suddenly decides to take his own path, in spite of the driver trying his hardest to direct him away from it. In the end, the stubborn donkey does not give in and tumbles off the edge down the mountainside, as the man says, “Go your own way, you wilful beast, and see where it leads you.”

It’s no bad thing to be focused, driven and to stay on target; a stubborn or wilful person is less likely to be swayed by the crowd or to quit. I’m pretty sure that Thomas Edison’s family thought he was rather stubborn, persisting after repeated setbacks. The American inventor reportedly failed 10, 000 times, before perfecting the incandescent electric light bulb, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work,” he concluded. As one of the greatest inventors of all time, his conviction paid off.

But, when this character trait works to your detriment as in the case of the stubborn donkey, it’s a different story.

Five signs that you are (or someone else is) being overly stubborn:

  • You continue to insist on your idea, even when you know you’re wrong.
  • You insist on doing what you want to do, even if nobody else wants to.
  • You tend to point out all the reasons why someone else’s idea is wrong/won’t work.
  • You feel anger, frustration or get emotional, when others try to persuade you to change your mind.
  • You agree half-heartedly to go along with others, but you know in your heart of hearts that you won’t stick to it.

Possible reasons why people are stubborn:

  • Sometimes outright stubborn behaviour is down to someone feeling invalidated, should their idea not come out on top.
  • It could be that they think their knowledge tends to be taken for granted, so they hold on to opposing ideas, to force others to pay attention.
  • Stubborn people often come across as being strong but this could in fact be a façade, covering up their fragility.
  • Stubbornness can also be born out of a fear of change.
  • Others see an attempt to change their mind as a personal attack on them.
  • Extremely wilful people prefer to argue their original point of view and tend to process additional information in ways that prop up their own belief.

So if someone in your class, friendship group or sports team seems overly stubborn, think about why that may be and how you could best deal with it. It could be that simply listening to what they have to say and acknowledging it, would take the edge off. Let's face it, fundamentally, we all want to feel validated and heard. It's always worth a try. That is of course, if you are not too stubborn yourself...

Recommended links:

The Fine Line Between Stubbornness and Stupidity | INSEAD Knowledge

The Ass and His Driver - Fables of Aesop

How to Change the Mind of the Most Stubborn Person You Know | Psychology Today

BBC - A History of the World - Object : One of the First Electric Light Bulbs

Signs That You’re Being Too Stubborn (